Temperature Reduction and Riparian Habitat Restoration Project in Upper Cow Creek
The Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest (SFNF) in cooperation with the Upper Pecos Watershed Association (UPWA) proposes to perform restoration activities to address Cow Creek. The proposed project area is along Cow Creek within the upstream and downstream boundaries of the SFNF. This site is located approximately 30 creek miles north of the confluence with the Pecos River and approximately 6-8 miles north-northeast of the Village of Pecos . The project area is prominent as a favorite local fishing and recreation site among the Pecos Valley community and was impacted by both Viveash Fire and post-Tres Lagunas Fire flooding. This project is funded through the State of New Mexico by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 319(h) grant administered by the New Mexico Environment Department.
The purpose of the Cow Creek Habitat Restoration Project is to improve water quality and fish habitat. This will be accomplished by reducing erosion and turbidity, increasing shading over the creek, and reducing downstream water temperatures.
A preliminary assessment of the creek in the project area shows a riparian vegetation community that is rapidly recovering in density and diversity since the last wildfire; however, there are several campsites adjacent to the creek where foot and vehicle traffic have compacted the soils and eliminated riparian vegetation entirely from the creek bank . As a result, soils are eroded and carried by rainwater runoff into the creek. Higher energy floodwaters in the creek increase bank erosion and turbidity during flood events. In some areas the channel is too wide, which results in the build-up of silt deposits during periods of normal or low flow.
The desired condition of the dispersed campsites adjacent to the creek is one where runoff is directed away from the creek, compacted soils are loosened, riparian vegetation is reestablished, and barriers are placed to limit vehicular traffic and protect vegetation. The campsites would still be usable by campers with vehicles and trailers.
The desired condition of the river channel in the project area is one where natural features, such as boulders, protect the bank from erosion, and increased shade from vegetation reduces temperatures. A slightly narrower channel in some places would result in improved flow energy during periods of normal flow. This increased energy would reduce the accumulation of silt on the riverbed. Increased vegetative shading and reduced sunlight on the riverbed would minimize warming of the water as it passes through the project area.